Championship week arrives as the regular season concluded in 2011 and the Shortlist is down to a six pack of contenders who read by order of crystal football worthiness as follows:
LSU, Houston, Alabama, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State.
The only team I called for to be eliminated last week not only survived, but thrived as they clinched their division in dominating fashion:
Virginia Tech uses a fourth and one from the one goal-line stand to ignite the 38-0 route in Charlottesville over Virginia to take home the Governors Cup and set up a rematch date in attempt to avenge their season's only loss. How a win there would keep them behind Alabama in line to face LSU escapes me, until you look at the non-conference schedules of the two teams and realize a win over even an uninspiring Penn State squad before they plunged into the current embroiling worst scandal in college athletics history trumps a schedule that highlights Marshall out of conference.
In conjunction with that predictive misfire, one team falls from the Shortlist to the Superdome without me calling for them to as well:
Arkansas jumps out to an early lead only to learn the lesson that the number one team in the country isn't just going to roll over and play dead as they fall to LSU in Baton Rouge 41-17. The Razorbacks are left wondering what might have been if Knile Davis hadn't been taken out for the year before the season as a returning first team SEC running back is just the kind of weapon one could rely on to keep an early two touchdown lead on the road to upset a top ranked team to close out November.
I expect only one team to find themselves eliminated from the running at the finish line:
The old adage of it being difficult to beat a team twice in a season hasn't held up recently in conference championship games and it's easier to win at a neutral site than on the road. Add in the fact that Clemson has played a tougher schedule this year and the fourth time might finally end up being the charm for my prediction of the Hokie's elimination from the Shortlist.
As 2011 comes to a close and bowl bids are sent out, half of the teams remaining on the Shortlist have the advantage of not having to play for a championship in an extra game. How that helps them prove their worthiness to play for a national championship only if they are from the SEC West is a question not easily answered once you take into account that Houston faces their second most difficult test back to back after dispatching their most difficult one in relatively easy fashion this week.
Why a special teams battle being lost speaks highly for Alabama more than Houston's continued offensive fireworks keeping them unbeaten can only be accounted for due to entrenched biases and affiliation for a certain strain of the color red rather than honest evaluation of merit.
Maybe if the hottest team in the country claims an SEC title for the eastern division we'll be rewarded with something other than a snooze inducing rematch for division bragging rights?
Help us Mark Richt, you're our only hope.
Copyright 2011 by Christopher Whelpton for Canespace.com